Robot 13 #2
Writer: Thomas Hall
Artist: Daniel Bradford
Review By: Jeff Marsick
Fantastic. Phenomenal. Best book I’ve read all year. Okay, there. I’ve gotten the effusive waxing out of my system. Well, for a few paragraphs, anyway.
You might remember a couple months back that I gushed over the first issue like a tween at a Nick Jonas sighting. Issue one’s when we first met the mysterious gangly-limbed automaton with the disembodied and jawless cranium tattooed with the number thirteen. Dredged from the ocean depths by fishermen, Thirteen danced a few rounds with a leviathan, effectively rescuing his excavators. Did the robot’s discovery precipitate the sea monster’s attack, or were the two events mutually exclusive?
One would be quick to assume the former, but as this issue starts out, it seems Thirteen’s origin harkens back to the age of antiquity, to the Bronze Age and the isle of Crete, where he was created to be savior and destroyer of monsters, able to accomplish what mortal man will not when faced with the likes of the Gorgon. It’s like steampunk meets Bullfinch, probably the best agglomeration since ghouls met Brown in Goodnight Goon. As Thirteen ponders which came first, the madness or the machine, he is beset upon by another monster, this one a phoenix-like bird, and as you can guess, another multi-page fisticuffs ensues. Though our hero triumphs, he takes the worst of it and lies unconscious somewhere in the far beyond, near the marriage of mountains and horizon. Dead? Alive? Echidna (mother of monsters, if you’re not savvy, implying that the avian foe wasn’t the Phoenix, but rather the Caucasus Eagle) would surely like to know, and as the gruesome and horrifying last page splash shows, she’s not real pleased, neither with her seer’s portents nor with her children being picked off one by one. “He will meet his maker…,” the oracle closes the issue with. “A reunion…of fathers…and sons…” Ooh. Spine-tingly.
Remember when you read your first Hellboy and the feeling you had that you were in on the groundfloor of something four clicks past awesome? Both issues of Robot 13 have rekindled that long-gone in me. Sure there’s the obvious Mignola-esque artwork, but the lead character being a sort of Jason Bourne version of Threepio is just, well, COOL. Thomas Hall writes sparsely (although with wit and terrific dialogue, surely not a detriment to the book), which is perfect, because Daniel Bradford’s pencils in big bold panels are the story’s real engine. After the fight with the eagle, you can almost feel the steam coming off the robot’s hand as hot metal melts the snow it’s embedded in. His use of shadows to obscure features lends a haunting feel, and goes far to betray a coldness or malevolence lurking beneath the surface. That last page, gruesome in its violence, is at the same time awesome (and, I believe, suitable for framing).
I’m not just blowing smoke, now: this is, seriously, the best series I’ve read all year. Unfortunately, it’s a quarterly release schedule from this small press so while the debut issue (at the June MoCCA Art Festival) might be as rare as a Ploughshare tortoise, you might still get your hands on a copy of the current issue this week. But have it you must, even if you have to go to the website (www.BlacklistStudios.com) to try and get a copy. Hellboy and BPRD fans definitely should not be without this book…and I wonder what it would take for Dark Horse to consider a crossover.
This is absolutely must reading and I can’t promote it enough.